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HOW WILL THE EVERY STUDENT SUCCEEDS ACT (ESSA) SUPPORT STUDENTS IN FOSTER CARE? Q: What is the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)? On December 10, 2015, President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), amending Title I, Part A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. For the first time, ESSA embeds in federal education law provisions that promote school stability and success for youth in care and collaboration between education and child welfare agencies to achieve these goals.

Q: Why are protections for students in foster care included in the ESSA? Children in foster care are some of the country’s most educationally disadvantaged students. Studies show that students in foster care experience: school suspensions and expulsions at higher rates than their peers not in foster care, lower standardized test scores in reading and math, high levels of grade retention and drop-out, and far lower high school and college graduation rates.

Q: What are the specific protections for students in foster care contained in the ESSA? REMAIN IN THE SAME SCHOOL WHEN IN THE CHILD’S BEST INTEREST Children in foster care frequently change schools – when they first enter foster care, when they move from one foster care living arrangement to another, or when they return home. Research shows that children who change schools frequently make less academic progress than their peers and fall farther behind with each school change. Additionally, school instability makes it difficult

for children to develop supportive relationships with teachers or peers. Under the ESSA, state education agencies must include in their state plans the steps that the agencies will take to ensure – in collaboration with the state child welfare agencies – school stability for youth in care including assurances that children enroll or remain in their “school of origin” unless a determination is made that it not in their best interest. That determination must be based on all factors relating to the child’s best interest including consideration of the appropriateness of the current educational setting and the proximity to the school in which the child is enrolled at the time of placement. Federal child welfare law already requires child welfare agencies to collaborate with education agencies to ensure school stability when it is in the child’s best interest; this law creates reciprocal obligations on education agencies.

IMMEDIATE ENROLLMENT IN SCHOOL AND TRANSFER OF SCHOOL RECORDS Children in foster care frequently face delays in school enrollment or are placed in the wrong classes or schools, often due to missing, incomplete, or delayed school records and documentation. Under the ESSA, state plans must now include the steps the state will take to ensure that when a school change is warranted, children in foster care can enroll immediately in a new school even if the child cannot produce normally required enrollment documents and school records. Additionally, enrolling schools must immediately contact the school last attended by the child to obtain relevant academic and other education records.

© Copyright 2016

1 Authored by the American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law, Education Law Center, and Juvenile Law Center.

SCHOOL TRANSPORTATION WHEN NECESSARY For some students in foster care, transportation is needed to allow them to remain in the same school. By December 10, 2016, local education and child welfare agencies must collaborate, and the education agencies must include in their local plans, assurances that they have developed and implemented clear written procedures governing how transportation to ensure school stability will be provided, arranged, and funded for the duration of the children’s time in foster care in a cost effective manner and in accordance with the provisions of child welfare law that permit the use of certain Title IV-E funds for school stability transportation.